Posts tagged ‘beans’

May 13, 2012

Last night’s dinner: Chilli-marinated tofu with coconut greens and rice

What a tasty Saturday night treat! And it was made after an afternoon at a local festival fundraiser at which ‘drink was taken’. Which is a way of saying it wasn’t that difficult to make. Think of it as a perked-up veggie Thai green curry, in fact an easier one, with the ingredients mostly coming together at the end rather than all being cooked sloppily together in a big bowl. Caring for ingredients individually, as ever, can really pay dividends.

Serves 2.

First, the tofu. Take a block of firm tofu (ours was Cauldron brand on this occasion), drain it and place it in a shallow bowl. Splash some dark soy sauce over it. Chop some fresh chilli (as much as you like) and a clove of garlic and sprinkle over the top of the tofu as well, before massaging the mixture into the tofu a little, gentling turning the tofu over to ensure it gets fully coated in the marinade. Leave for 20 minutes.

After marinating, cut the tofu across its width into ‘steaks’ 1cm thick. Try and coat each steak in the marinade without breaking them – careful now! Then heat a little sesame oil in a large frying pan and add the tofu steaks, reserving as much marinade as possible for later. On a high-ish heat the tofu will begin to colour and crisp up on the outside after around 7 minutes or so. When slightly crisped and golden on one side, turn the steaks over. Don’t worry if they look a little blackened, but don’t let the edges turn to charcoal. When golden on both sides they steaks can continue to sit happily on the heat at the lowest setting while the rest of the dish is made. Just keep a check of them though. Ours, pictured above, are black from the soy sauce, not from burning.

Now for the greens. In a large wok or frying pan, add a tin of coconut milk. Heat through on a medium heat. Add a teaspoon of turmeric, a stalk of lemongrass, snapped in the middle to help release the flavour and a 2.5cm piece of grated fresh ginger. Stir and bring to a soft simmer.

Chop one large or two small heads of pak choi, top and tail some French beans and add to the sauce. Alternatively you could add some sprouting broccoli or even asparagus – but the contrast between soft leaves and crunchy beans is rather nice. Cook through for 5 minutes, until the veg has softened ever so slightly and the sauce has reduced a little. Fish out the lemongrass.

Now, back to the tofu: pour the remainder of the marinade over the tofu and cook for 2 more minutes.

Serve with the tofu on top, the coconut veg underneath, and a bed of nutty brown rice at the bottom. Oh, and a squeeze of lime will work a treat as well.

We really liked this and hope you do too.

October 6, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Pinto beans with slow-roast tomatoes and goats cheese

Thursday 15 September

Before the recipe, a quick word about trust and cooking, as it brings some influence to bear on our pinto beans with slow-roast tomatoes and goats cheese.

Trust in the food we eat is one of the most natural, early, primal, comforting, rewarding, continuing experiences we have in life. Hopefully. It’s learned, hopefully, as a baby, with the first food coming straight from our mothers themselves. Then we learn to trust again, as the foods we are provided with begin to vary and as we begin to choose from different options ourselves. Our palates, hopefully, develop in a comforting, safe environment – little wonder many people have a strong emotional attachment to the notion that their mum, grannie, dad, auntie, next door neighbour… whoever… could make food more comforting than anyone else. That’s not always true, of course, but it’s a widely held experience. Even if your childhood carers were useless cooks you will have found some way of trusting that the food you ate could do its job of nourishing you. It’s probably one of the reasons McDonalds et al like to get to kids early and give gifts with the meal – that equation of food plus treat plus fun plus comfort is a powerful one that will hold into adulthood.

We carry this into later life. A favourite restaurant? Probably a new variant of that McDonalds equation – a place you can go back to, where you can trust that the food will provide what you’re looking for, where you don’t have to worry, where you can relax. A favourite recipe book? It’ll be one you can turn to that has instructions you trust, where, miraculously, you can follow it step by step and what goes onto the plate bears comparison with the picture on the page and brings a smile to your friends or family.

It’s when you start going off piste, turning to a new recipe book, visiting a new restaurant with unfamiliar dishes and, specifically for us, making a recipe up for yourself, that trust often disappears and food becomes a little more fraught. Just as someone with a limited diet and palate might get nervous when presented with a plate of unusual ingredients, so a decent cook can lose the plot completely when asked to deviate from their usual repertoire.

So why all this preamble? Well, it’s to explain how a rather tasty and comforting dish like pinto beans with slow-roast tomatoes and goats cheese can come about, off the top of your head, without being scary. Let’s trace the genesis:

We wanted a dish of some savoury beans, because we like that kind of thing from time to time. A quick flick through some favourite recipe books brought no inspiration, for some reason. There were recipes for borlotti beans, butter beans, recipes we’d already tried… but nothing new or for pinto beans. No matter. Pinto beans are pretty much like borlotti beans and one recipe suggested (I think we’ve done it before) cooking the beans then grating the zest of a lemon into them to pep them up. So, okay let’s do that. Beans, cooked and drained, kept warm, plus lemon zest, hmm, a clove of crushed garlic and a tablespoon of olive oil? Well, oil plus garlic plus lemon is pretty much a vinaigrette, so that should work. Season. Add some parsley for a little freshness? Okay. And what about a chopped red chilli? Beans and chilli? That’s common. Okay. Done.

But what about the topping? Well, baked beans come in a tomato sauce, so what about tomato? Okay, but how do you make it a bit posher? Hmm, slow roast halved tomatoes on a very low heat for a couple of hours until they’re semi-dried. We’ve seen this done in another recipe somewhere, so okay, yes. And what about that third constituent ingredient that brings things all together? Well, who hasn’t sprinkled grated cheese on their baked beans? And goats cheese is great with tomatoes – and, since they’re in the oven we could put the goats cheese on top of the tomatoes…

And so… there’s nothing in this recipe that is strange, out of the ordinary or particularly unexpected. All of it is variants of other things we know and trust. And yet it was completely made up, from the top of our little hungry heads. And it tasted delicious.

Trust: bring it into the kitchen now. It’s a vital ingredient.

September 4, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: A ‘kind of’ Caldo Verde

Sunday 14 August

Caldo Verde is the Portugeuse soup of potato, onion and kale. Recipes vary for it, sometimes meat is added to it, sometimes garlic, and probably loads of other things too. But the essential items are the greens of the leaves and the whites of the potatoes and onion.

We had a huge bunch of kale in the kitchen and Ella suggested doing something stew-like with it and a a Caldo Verde was kind of the way to go. Kind of. My issue with with straightforward Caldo Verde is that a loose soup of greens and potato can lack punch. Cabbage soup: low on the wow factor. So I like to toughen it up slightly. Garlic is a good addition, as is a hearty stock. But my main addition is beans (butter beans, haricot beans, borlotti beans – anything really, as long as they’re basically a white bean). The beans add substance and protein, as well as providing a different texture and just that little extra thing going on to make it less plain. And I think of it as a stew, not a soup. So…

In a large stockpot, fry a sliced onion in olive oil for five minutes, then add a clove of finely chopped garlic and cook for a further three minutes. Next, add some halved new potatoes, or quartered potatoes if they’re larger. Floury potatoes are good here as when they start to break up they’ll thicken the sauce. Then add some roughly chopped kale, any thick stalks removed, a tin of white beans of your choice and a level dessert spoon of paprika. Finally add some vegetable stock, which should come up about level with the top of all the veg. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. When the potatoes are soft you might want to crush a few of them in the pan and then stir – it’ll thicken the sauce a little. Serve with crusty bread and a final drizzle of olive oil.

September 4, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Summer quinoa salad

Wednesday 10 August

Beans, beetroot, courgettes… all grown in a local allotment and looking for a home… All we wanted was something that could bind these summery ingredients together… a bed for them to rest in, but one that would allow their individual flavours to shine.

I popped up to the deli and nabbed some quinoa and a tin of chickpeas and got to work. We would once have made this light meal with cous cous, but as we’re avoiding too much wheatiness quinoa is now our preferred alternative.

The method? As straightforward as it looks: cook the quinoa as per the packet instructions, roast the beetroot whole (for about 50 minutes) and then peel and chop into segments (like a Terry’s chocolate orange), shallow fry a chopped onion and courgette, slice the beans into 3cm sections then boil for 4 or 5 minutes and drain.

When everything is ready, combine in a large bowl with the drained chickpeas, drizzle over a little good extra virgin olive oil, and mix through. A simple way to use up some late-summer ingredients from the veg patch.

July 9, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Denis Cotter’s summer squash, borlotti bean and roasted pepper soup with basil chilli oil

Saturday 18 June

I know, we’re playing catch-up here, but we have an excuse. We’re moving house you see, and for the past few weeks I’ve been calling solicitors and estate agents every hour, every day. The good news? We’ve exchanged contracts and are looking forward to moving in a couple of weeks and starting to shop for our veg at the wonderful little local grocer’s.

Of course, we are still eating. Back in May, Ella got me Denis Cotter’s briliant new recipe book For the Love of Food. You can get it here.

This rich, rustic, wonderful soup is one of the first recipes we’ve tried from the book. As ever with Cotter, the trick is in assemblage. What? Well, Cotter’s talent is to see that you should treat each ingredient with the respect it deserves. If I’d invented this summery soup I’d have probably fried an onion, added some courgette and peppers, then added a tin of tomatoes and a tin of borlotti beans, some chopped chilli, a pint of stock, simmered, and then scattered some basil leaves over at the end. And, you know, fine. Seriously, it would be fine.

The Cotter factor? Roast the peppers first, cook the beans separately and add marjoram and the zest and juice of a lemon. Add some spring onion at the end. Blend wilted basil leaves with olive oil and chilli to make a fiery pesto. Et cetera, et cetera. The end result is a much deeper flavour and a soup that is truly respectful to the vegetables from which it is made. Glorious.

May 6, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Ful with hummous

Monday 2 May

Ful is the Egyptian dish of crushed broad (fava) beans with cumin and garlic. It’s often eaten at breakfast but actually enjoyed at any time of the day. The version Ella made was again inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty (see previous post). He warns that it might not look like much but is actually rather filling. And so it should be – a big pile of herby broad beans on a bed of warm, homemade hummous and and an egg on top. That’s one big plate of protein and a rich mix too. There’s something about beans, olive oil and herbs that is heartening – ETP’s butter beans and feta recipe does a similar trick to this. Good old Ottolenghi.

Recipe? There’s a wealth of them for Ful out there, but try this one here and adapt to your liking.

March 29, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Pinto beans with kale and herbs

Monday 28 March

I’m not sure why but sometimes all I want for dinner – more than a flavour, more than a meal, more than food itself – is a big bowl of nutrition. In the summer this invariably means a salad full of amazing summer leaves. At other times of the year it’s more robust leaves and beans or pulses of one kind or another. And so this was the reason behind a new combination of the two for last night’s dinner. We occasionally cook pinto beans or borlotti benas, and frequently cook kale. But the two together? Well, they work a treat.

I soaked the beans in water during the afternoon then simmered them in some stock until soft (very important!), then refreshed them under the tap. Meanwhile I steamed a bag of curly kale for 6 minutes, ran it under the cold water to stop it cooking and set aside. Next you need to finely slice an onion and fry it in olive oil until softened and golden, add three cloves of chopped garlic and fry for a further minute or two, then add chopped fresh red chilli (to your own taste). Add the pinto beans, stir well, add a sprig of rosemary, chopped finely, and a few leaves of oregano, again finely chopped. Then add a glug of white wine vinegar. Simmer for two minutes, season with salt and pepper, add 3 tbsps of olive oil and the kale, stir in, then add a bunch of flat leaf parsley. Stir in again, leave for a minute, then serve.

We’ll make it again.